Written by Susanna De Martino
iji is the kind of project — and it has to be called a project, with singer-songwriter Zach Burba as its only fixed point, leading an ever-expanding cast of dozens of collaborators — iji is the kind of project that has a knack for making music which is simultaneously catchy and unpredictable. Burba has been active in Seattle’s DIY music scene for most of the last decade; Whatever Will Happen is iji’s twelfth released album, though it’s his first recorded in a professional studio. This album has the clear marks of an artist with enough time to dip into every genre that catches his attention, and a scene that puts an emphasis on collaboration among local bands. When asked about his influences, Burba lists off his friends’ bands first; many of their names also appear on the album’s credits in various roles.
Within the album itself, iji deftly melds surf rock, jazz, disco, and pop, often within the same song. This is interspersed with samples of video game powerup-style sounds, soaring violins, and the sound of rolling thunder. Despite its myriad influences, though, Whatever Will Happen rarely deteriorates into cacophony. Songs veer between time signatures and genres, and though the shifts are sometimes jarring, they rarely sound sloppy. One is reminded of Malcolm Gladwell’s now-infamous theory that ten thousand hours of practice will make anyone an expert in their field. Nearly ten years of collaboration and experimentation within a tightly knit musical community have made Burba a pro at his craft, before he ever hit the studio.
One of the album’s most interesting tracks is "Bound 2 Glory," in which Burba gets bored and cynical, calling out the "the ramblers" of decades past, musicians who believed “all they had to do was sing.” He goes on to question the entire premise of making music, wondering if the world needs any more "regular songs, stacks upon stacks upon piles of songs,” deciding finally that it probably doesn’t. It could be a coincidence that this track is significantly different from anything else on the album, that it sounds more like the rock ramblers of yore that he’s calling out than any other song, stripped of the jazziness and samples present in the rest of the album. But Burba has been in the game for too long for that to be likely. “Bound 2 Glory” is a pointed dig at the music he believes the world is oversaturated with, done by creating another one of those songs. The resolution Burba reaches--that he makes music because he’s on the side of all the “weird and wild kids… the lost and messed up kids” — may be trite, but the track gives a charming level of self-awareness to the album. iji isn’t breaking any barriers here, but “Bound 2 Glory” is simultaneously a disclaimer and an anthem; Burba knows the world is full of people doing almost exactly the same thing as he is, but he’s still offering up his own “stupid words full of stupid dreams,” if only to back up everyone else like him.
Whatever Will Happen was released on June 2nd through Team Love Records, and can be purchased through the label’s site.